‘Cut opening hours and all the libraries will be saved’

Belsize Park and Hampstead campaigners are calling on Camden council to abandon plans to shut three libraries and instead reduce all Camden library opening hours by 45 per cent.

This would shave the required �1.6million from the council’s budget while keeping all the borough’s libraries open, they say.

Belsize Park Residents’ Association and the Friends of Heath Library have both applied to make a deputation at a special culture and environment scrutiny committee meeting on Monday to look at whether to proceed with the library proposals.

Four Conservative councillors have “called in” the cabinet’s decision to proceed with plans to transfer the running of Chalk Farm, Heath and Belsize libraries to voluntary groups.

Lee Montague, of the Friends of Heath Library, said: “Reducing opening hours means the libraries stay open. This way we will not lose them for good.”

In Belsize, the Winchester Project is expressing an interest in running the library.

Chief executive Paul Perkins said: “There are three things we need assurances on from the council – rent levels, access to library services and start up or transition funding.”

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Averil Nottage, of Belsize RA, said: “We want to know the council is not just paying lip service to the idea.”

A council spokeswoman said that although informal discussions had taken place, the call-in had meant that no transfer terms had yet been proposed. If the scrutiny committee agrees to proceed with the cabinet’s decision, information sessions will be held on how to submit proposals for the transfer.